Pennsylvania 7  year old Icelandic ridden in curb bit, mild port 4 inch shanks and Wintec Western saddle in Round pen, ring, pasture. trail by Rider: advanced with horses, beginner with Icelandics

Question: My horse has begun to have a "hitch" in the right hind leg when at a tolt. It is almost as if he is trying to strike off into a canter, but it is "off" and only at the tolt. The horse walks evenly and canters fine, just at the Tolt. He almost appears lame in the rt hind. Farrier found a SMALL bruse in that hoof, but said it shouldn't be the problem, Vet passes the horse as sound, but he did not see him under saddle. He is sound in the field, just not with a rider. Any suggestions?

From Panelist Lukka
How frequently does this happen?  If it happens constantly, it's a health problem, if it happens just once in a while (like if you ask for more speed), it might be something called vixl, which I'll write more about if it might apply.  Vixl is when a horse mixes gaits in such a way that the horse tolts, but because of tension it does a mix and it feels like it is jumping an inch in in loose air for a split second an then it tolts again.


From Panelist Christine

Without seeing the horse I would tend to agree with your vet and farrier that it is probably not a physical problem. Does she "hitch" as much when you ride her out on the road or trail as she does in the round pen? Especially if the sand is deep she may find it easier to half canter to get around. For many horses it is less work to do this than properly carry themselves at the tolt and engage their hind ends. As the hindlend is less engaged and not pushing the horse forward the rhythm is lost and the horse start into a smooth, rolling canter or hitch as you have experienced.To clean up the tolt trotting can help to get your mare more energetic and free in her movements. Ask for different speeds at the trot and I would work her more on the trail or a large ring where you are working on harder surface than sand and not in a round pen. Slalom and serpentines will help her become softer and more fluid, hillwork will help her develop more muscles and strength  in her hindend.When tolting her watch to keep her energetic and forward, which will help keep her in a clean 4-beat tolt.
 Good luck

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